Four of the biggest success stories of 2020 (and what we can learn from them)


There will always be businesses that find a way to thrive in adversity. While 2020 led many to hunker down and focus on survival, some found ways to innovate, or simply made the best out of a helpful measure of luck. Here we’ll briefly cover four of the biggest success stories in 2020, and what we can learn from them.jeff bezos with lemons

Paypal: $65.4bn Market Capital Added

Paypal is a brilliant example of a company that has used 2020 to maximise its existing customer base. Paypal has slowly but surely broadened its range of products and services in a way that actually made sense to consumers.

Rather than risking disappearing into obscurity, it has held strong against numerous competitor payment options by increasing in-store transactions through features including physical Venmo cards, QR codes, and contactless payments. The company has signed up more than 600,000 international merchants who accept these methods.

During the busiest moments at the height of the holiday shopping season, PayPal was processing over 1,000 transactions a second, a record statistic for the company. PayPal added 16 million net new active accounts in the latest quarter, bringing its total active accounts to 377 million, including 29 million merchant accounts.

“All these new products and services are really transforming PayPal from a checkout solution to a full super-app, or a digital wallet that transcends payments, financial services, and commerce and shopping tools,” stated Chief Executive Dan Schulman.

Shopify: $51.4bn Market Capital Added

Last year, Shopify somewhat dramatically overtook eBay to become the second-biggest ecommerce group after Amazon by US market share last year, shifting $61bn worth of consumer goods. As one of the prime beneficiaries of the pandemic’s shift to online shopping, Shopify managed to double its valuation from the start of 2020. 62% more Shopify stores were created from March to April 2020 than in the previous six weeks.

Start-ups including Allbirds shoes and global brands such as Heinz are among hundreds of thousands of brands using its services to sell directly to customers; cutting out middlemen such as Amazon.

One of Shopify’s greatest advantages is that its business model is aligned with driving success in their customers. The more sales Shopify customers make, the more money Shopify brings in. This structure aligns everyone in the company, from the product team to customer support, with a focus on helping customers win. Everyone is profiting, so everyone is invested in continuous development.

Tesla: $108.4bn Market Capital Added

Love him or hate him, Elon Musk is doing something right (and it’s not naming his children). As leaders, we should certainly aspire to be similarly inspiring, courageous and revolutionary.

With sustainability an ever-increasing global concern, Tesla have taken electric cars and somehow transformed them into something ‘cool’ (does everyone remember the G-Wiz?!), perceived to be worth the hefty price tag.

Last year was difficult for every car manufacturer, but Tesla went from strength to strength and ended on a high, with its first ever profitable year and with its Model 3 being the UK’s best-selling car in December.

Every electric vehicle on the road improves the environment and reduces pollution levels, regardless of how the energy it’s charged with was obtained and how it was manufactured. What’s crucial here is that Tesla’s success is good news for the planet, and all of us.

Amazon: $401.1bn Market Capital Added

No one should be surprised to see Amazon here, and there are clear reasons why they prospered in 2020.

Adding 44% to net sales during the final quarter, Amazon capitalised on the huge increase in the need for delivered household goods of all kinds throughout the pandemic. From the essential (toiletries, home electricals, alcohol!) to the less essential (indoor games sets, DIY tools, craft materials), Amazon had it covered when it came to lockdown necessities and amusements.

The news of Jeff Bezos’ stepping down as CEO comes as no big surprise, with his fingers in numerous other (albeit smaller) pies. While stock didn’t immediately plummet, there may still be trouble afoot, in the shape of a consumer backlash (#boycottamazon).

We’ve all seen the numerous campaigns against Amazon for supposed tax dodging, overworking and underpaying of key staff and monopolisation of markets. The phrase ‘shop small’ has only become more prevalent during lockdown, despite the obvious convenience of utilising Amazon Prime. We can expect to see some serious brand-image CPR this year.

Looking to the future

It’s clear that something which connects all these businesses is an intelligent use of tech, which has been key in determining who succeeded and who merely survived during 2020. Time and time again, we’re witnessing brands falling short of today’s fast-moving market and paying the ultimate price.

One thing we can be sure of in 2021 is that we’ll continue to experience levels of uncertainty. The success stories of next year will be those who innovate and put consumer needs first. Keep your eyes peeled for our consumer behaviour-focussed report, coming later this year.


For more information on how to build the strong foundations needed for a future of growth, speak to us confidentially at +44 (0) 203 675 1459, or email Orlando Martins at [email protected].

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